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Tuesday 23 September 2014

Two new dates spark fresh hope for Brooks gigs

Anne-Marie Walsh and Sam Griffin

Published 07/07/2014 | 02:30

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Croke Park locals protest against moves to cancel the concerts. Photo: Collins
Croke Park locals protest against moves to cancel the concerts. Photo: Collins
Ballybough residents campaigning for 5  Garth Brooks Concerts in Croke Park on Clonliffe Road, Dublin.
Photo:  Gareth Chaney Collins
Ballybough residents campaigning for 5 Garth Brooks Concerts in Croke Park on Clonliffe Road, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Lucky fans with tickets Sisters Michelle and Gemma Coughlan from King Street
Lucky fans with tickets Sisters Michelle and Gemma Coughlan from King Street

A LAST-ditch attempt to save the Garth Brooks concerts would see two of the concerts rescheduled on new dates.

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There was fresh hope for fans last night as a top state mediator joined talks in a 11th-hour bid to ensure the five sell-out comeback tour dates go ahead.

Kieran Mulvey is trying to persuade Aiken Promotions to make a new application for an event licence in an effort to persuade the American country superstar to return.

One of the options being mooted could mean altering the dates scheduled for Croke Park so there would be a break between the first three concerts and the final two. The rescheduling would mean the final two gigs could take place on July 30 and 31 – the Wednesday and Thursday, rather than the original Monday and Tuesday nights.

The original concerts were scheduled to take place over five days in a row from July 25-29.

This would give Croke Park residents a break, while the Mulvey proposals mean they would also be assured a year free from concerts in 2015.

Mr Mulvey is also keen that Aiken would get assurances that an option for fast-tracking the application without numerous objections is considered, once residents' key concerns are addressed.

A source close to the negotiations yesterday suggested they were looking at a ten-day processing for the new application. A meeting of Dublin City Council is also due to take place today on the issue and residents opposed to the concerts are expected to protest outside.

The move follows outrage among 400,000 fans who bought tickets, some residents, members of the public and the business and tourism industry, after Dublin City Council refused to license two of the five concerts. An estimated 70,000 fans were expected to travel from abroad to the gigs.

In January, the country singer announced his first two Irish shows in 17 years. Three further dates were added but disgruntled local residents complained that it was a breach of the GAA's agreement with them as the venue was already hosting three One Direction gigs.

Last week, Dublin City Council gave the green light to just three of the five concerts, and said the planning decision could not be reversed or appealed.

Fears are growing that all five concerts will be cancelled after the American singer warned he would either play five nights or none at all.

The planning laws leave no right to appeal to a higher authority, but Mr Mulvey's new proposals circumvent this by allowing a new application while recognising the previous one cannot be revisited.

It is understood it is more likely to be achievable within the timeframe than securing an alternative venue.

Many of the 70,000 planning to travel for the concerts would not be badly put out, although steps would have to be taken to ensure hotels and guest houses did not hike up prices.

It is understood that the promoter, Aiken, was engaging with Mr Brooks over the weekend to explore all options. Separately lengthy talks took place on Saturday and Sunday between Mulvey, Aiken and the GAA. They were instigated by Lord Mayor Christy Burke.

But the attempt to save the dates comes as the threat of court action to prevent any of the Garth Brooks concerts going ahead remains.

Some residents have come out in favour of the concerts as major employers in the area, but a residents group opposing the concerts says it is looking at "three or four" legal options.

Eamon O'Brien said that the Croke Park Streets Committee are frustrated by the fact that tickets to concerts were sold before the license was granted. However this is normal practice.

"We'll look at the various options that would be appropriate for us and take the advice of our barristers and take the appropriate course of action," he said.

"There's breach of contract, there's a judicial review and there's an injunction."

When asked if the group will seek an injunction if the three concerts are to go ahead, Mr O'Brien said: "that is a possibility yes".

"It will be subject to advice as to what is the best route to go," he said.

He added that Garth Brooks' statement that none of the concerts will go ahead if all five are not granted had added fuel to the situation.

"He's not blackmailing but he's playing hardball at least in relation to the concerts. He has now created the possibility there will be none."

Irish Independent

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